By John Delon, Winston-Salem Open
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Richard Gasquet is feeling healthy again, and he’s looking forward to going far in the sixth annual Winston-Salem Open.
Gasquet is the top seed in this year’s tournament, which will begin on Saturday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex with the first round of qualifying. The 30-year-old Frenchman participated in the draw ceremony on Friday afternoon and pronounced himself fit for a run to the title after missing much of the summer schedule with a back injury. He was forced to retire in his fourth-round match at Wimbledon and only returned to action this past week at Cincinnati. He comes into the WSO ranked No. 15 in the latest ATP World Tour rankings.
“I’m 100 percent,” Gasquet said Friday. “I haven’t played many times and Cincinnati was tough for me because I didn’t get much practice, so that’s why I came here. This is best for me (to prepare) for the US Open, so I have to go far and get many matches and just try to win the tournament. I will try my best. It’s a big draw, a very competitive draw, so I know it’s going to be tough but I am looking forward to it.”
Gasquet is one of 16 seeded players who will receive first-round byes in the 48-player Main Draw. All 16 seeded players are ranked inside the Top 50.
The other seeds and their rankings, in order, are: No. 17 Roberto Bautista Agut; No. 19 Pablo Cuevas; No. 23 Steve Johnson; No. 24 Kevin Anderson, the defending champion; No. 29 Sam Querrey; No. 31 Gilles Simon; No. 33 Albert Ramos-Vinolas; No. 35 Viktor Troicki; No. 36 Joao Sousa; No. 40 Paolo Lorenzi; No. 41 Andrey Kuznetsov; No. 43 Federico Delbonis; No. 44 Marcos Baghdatis; No. 45 Fernando Verdasco; and No. 48 Pablo Carreno Busta.
Every player in the field is ranked in the Top 100.
Gasquet, who owns 13 career ATP World Tour titles including one earlier this year at Montpellier, becomes the third Frenchman in the WSO’s six years to be a top seed. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was the No. 1 seed in 2012 and Simon was the top seed last year.
Gasquet said it was vital for him to get as many matches as possible this week. It would take five wins for him to walk away with career title No. 14.
“I have to get matches here,” he said. “There is no way to replace matches. So it is a very important tournament for me. The good thing is I am practicing hard now and I am confident in my body, so hopefully I can go far. I have every feeling to play well.”
Gasquet is making his first trip to the WSO, although he has been to Winston-Salem once before. He was a member of France’s Davis Cup team that played the United States at Joel Coliseum in the spring of 2008.
“I came here eight years ago so I know the city,” he said. “I knew it was a nice place and a nice stadium and I know the tournament is run well, so it’s a pleasure for me to come here. The French players talk about this tournament, the stadium is wonderful and there are lots of courts for practice and so I know I’m going to be taken care of here.”
Gasquet, who reached as high as No. 7 in 2007, is one of six players in the field who have been ranked in the Top 10 at some point in their careers. The others are Anderson, Simon, Baghdatis, Verdasco and Mikhail Youzhny.
Bautista Agut, Frances Tiafoe, Rajeev Ram and Bjorn Fratangelo wound up receiving the four wild cards.
The draw also produced several interesting first-round matchups.
Tiafoe will meet another American teenager, Taylor Fritz, in a battle of #NextGen stars on the horizon. Pierre-Hugues Herbert, last year’s runner-up to Anderson, will face American Donald Young. Paul-Henri Mathieu will face Stephane Robert in a battle of Frenchmen; Youzhny will face #NextGen star Thanasi Kokkinakis; and Andreas Seppi will face Jan-Lennard Struff.
The eight first-round qualifying matches scheduled for Saturday are: Yoshihito Nishioka vs. Lukasz Kubot; James Duckworth vs. Michael Mmoh; Petros Chrysochos vs. Alejandro Falla; Dennis Uspensky vs. Liam Brody; Skander Mansouri vs. Tim Van Rijthoven; Radu Albot vs. Will Spencer; Mackenzie McDonald vs. James McGee; and top seed Michael Berrer vs. Matwe Middelkoop.